There were continuous questions regarding Bangladesh's ability to play well in Test cricket as they managed only seven wins out of 93 five-dayers prior to the two-match series against England.
However, Bangladesh displayed some exciting cricket in the first Test in Chittagong, only to fall agonisingly short by 22 runs. Mushfiqur Rahim and his troop though made up for their heartbreaking loss by sealing their biggest win in the longest format of the game when they beat the opposition by 108 runs in Dhaka in the second and final Test.
The Tigers skipper was instrumental in the first Test where he scored 48 and 39. His 124-ball 39 in the second innings can perhaps be rated as one of his most valuable knocks. His 87-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Sabbir Rahman gave hope to the home side but Bangladesh eventually conceded a narrow defeat.
Despite the historic Dhaka Test win, there were still questions lingering over Mushfiq’s captaincy and the wicket-keeping issue. There were also a lot of talks regarding the infamous tea-break discussion with the head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and his decision to refrain from talking to the media more often than not. Dhaka Tribune
caught up with the Test captain for an exclusive interview where he talked freely about several topics, chief among them his captaincy experiences in recent times.
Here are the excerpts:
How do you rate the England Tests as captain and as a player?
Obviously it’s a big achievement as I previously said it's one of the biggest wins in the history of Bangladesh cricket, and in my 11-year Test career. And to be a part of history being the captain of this team, I am really proud. I would like to thank the Almighty. Test is a different-ball game. It came against England so it's an extraordinary win. I think this win will make us more confident and give us self-belief. If we can consistently play like this, I am confident that not only England, we can beat any team in this format. It was much-needed for us as Bangladesh have been playing good cricket in the limited-over formats but we were lacking in confidence in the longer version. But after this win, I think things will start to improve in the longer format.
The pitch was the centre of attention throughout the Test series. How challenging was it for you to prepare your team mates for the battle on turning tracks?
Obviously it was a very big challenge as we, the senior players, and the team management, first brought up the plan. We knew it won't be an easy task for us to execute the plans. Especially, the batsmen also agreed and said even it is difficult, let's try as we have tried a lot of things before at home but still the result was the same. We have to prepare for the conditions keeping our strengths at home in mind as we thought even if we prepare the wicket for three days, it was the plan to go for the win. If we can play well we can beat any team. And we knew England are weak against spin.
Hathurusingha earlier said your two knocks in the Chittagong Test were more valuable than scoring a hundred. How do you rate those two innings?
Obviously it was a learning curve for me as I have never played in these type of wickets in my 11-year Test career. We don’t get many opportunities to play in India as they have a lot of turning tracks. I have played in Sri Lanka but I have never played in these type of pitches before. It was challenging, especially for the batsmen, and we have tried play the right type of shots on such pitches. We have also displayed a great deal of patience while batting and it was a good effort. But at the end, we lost the match and this feeling of unfulfillment will always remain. I think those two innings will also remain my best knocks. I think I have learned a lot from those knocks which will help me to improve in future.
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Mushfiq makes his way to the dressing room DHAKA TRIBUNE
In pursuit of 286 in the port city, did you think at any point of carrying the bat?
Of course, when me and Shakib [al Hasan] were batting. After he got out, Sabbir and myself had a very good partnership going. Then I said to Sabbir that it’s a great opportunity for us to win the Test. We didn't have any established batsmen after us. [Mehedi Hasan] Miraz was there but still, we planned that we will try to stay till the end. We added 87 runs together and I thought I should stay till stumps and will return on the fifth day and finish the game. But unfortunately, I was out off such a delivery that I had no idea at all. We tried hard and it would have been good if we had went on to win that match. But unfortunately, we lost.
Tamim Iqbal appeared to be in charge during the third day of the second Test. Can you describe that particular situation?
During the tea break, obviously the coach was angry towards the players, which was obvious as we were not able to execute our plans in the middle. The bowlers also struggled to execute. We had a group chat comprising all the senior players and the coach. He told the senior players to step up and take responsibility. We were given some roles. Tamim was standing at mid-off so he could help the bowlers closely. To add to that, close-in fielders like Mominul [Haque] and Mahmudullah Riyad bhai, they were also given roles to distract the batsmen. Shakib and Miraz meanwhile, were given roles as bowlers so that they could get the breakthroughs. With the combination of everyone’s effort, we were able to win the match.
Does it mean you were not captaining the side during that period?
Coach always tells us, whoever has the ball in his hand, he is the captain at that time as only he knows how and what to do in that particular situation. So, all the 11 players in the team always try to follow that and whatever message we receive from the coach, we discuss and try to implement them on the field. Especially us, the four senior members of the team (Mushfiq, Shakib, Tamim and Mahmudullah), were given instructions to lead from the front and fulfil the responsibilities.
Under your captaincy, Bangladesh tasted quite a few defeats in Tests. How different does it feel as captain to be on the winning side for a change?
I have always enjoyed my captaincy but obviously, it was very challenging for me as we don’t play much Test cricket. Whenever we play, we have a big gap in between. It’s a tough challenge to play consistently well. After a gap, one usually sees three-four changes from the previous Test. So it is always very challenging to play consistently well in Test cricket. Being a captain, it was very difficult but now I can say Bangladesh have five-six consistent performers in the team which always helps me as the captain of the side. Everyone chipped in. Not only Shakib and Miraz but Tamim, Imrul [Kayes], Shuvagata [Hom], Taijul [Islam] and Mominul; every single player contributed to the win. So obviously I am enjoying my captaincy and I hope to take the Test team to the next level.
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Mushfiq said if it was solely upto him, he would continue to keep wickets DHAKA TRIBUNE
Talks are doing the rounds that multiple roles in the form of captaincy, keeping and batting are taking a toll on you.....
I think I am enjoying all the three roles at the moment. If you notice, wicket-keeping has always been my first priority. I have scored a double hundred in Tests and also kept wickets in the same game. There is always a soft corner for it (keeping). But if the team management and the board decide that they might get the best outcome by picking someone else and approach me, then I will have to think about it. I will decide which will help my team as we all are part of the team. It’s a team game and I am ready to do anything for my side.
Many are of the opinion that Mushfiq always shies away from the media. Do you agree?
Aha, I won't say it’s false but it’s not fully true as well. Not only towards the media, I am like this as a person as I always try for my performance to speak for myself. It’s my habit right from my childhood days.
Maybe I am not able to interact like others but it’s not like I never face or talk to the media as you know we all are humans and have different ways of living. I always try to highlight myself through hard work, more than my words. But yes, if that is my problem then I will try to interact more in future (smiles).